Outpatient rehab involves daily treatment at a clinic or facility. People who choose outpatient treatment can continue to live at home as they recover.
People who choose inpatient rehab live at the rehab facility. Inpatient rehab can be particularly effective for people with severe substance use disorders.
Choosing to change your relationship with drugs or alcohol is an essential first step toward recovery. But recovery is a process — one that drug and alcohol rehab programs can help you through. There are many types of substance use treatments, including detox (withdrawal management), therapy, and counseling. These fit into two categories: outpatient and inpatient rehab.
One type of rehab is not better or more effective than the other. Both outpatient and inpatient rehab can help you stop using drugs or alcohol and reduce the risk of using them again after your recovery. The main difference between the two is the setting.
Your recovery needs will help determine which type of rehab is best for you.
Outpatient rehab involves daily treatment, such as therapy, counseling, or group sessions, at a clinic or facility. People who choose outpatient treatment can continue to live at home as they recover, allowing them to take care of children or family members, keep up with their jobs, and stay on track in school. Outpatient care typically costs less than inpatient rehab, but the level of support may be less intensive.
Most programs involve individual or group counseling and use a step-down approach, which means sessions become less intensive and frequent as you grow during treatment. These programs help patients overcome their drug or alcohol dependence and then maintain their recovery over the long-term.
There are several benefits to outpatient treatment that make it the best choice for many people:
However, outpatient care may not be the best choice for you if:
No matter what type of drug or alcohol rehab you choose, it will get you started on a path to lifelong recovery. Both inpatient and outpatient options will help you stop substance use and replace it with healthy behaviors. These options will also provide you with the skills you need to continue your recovery after rehab.
Inpatient rehab is also called residential rehab because you live at the rehab facility. Inpatient rehab can be effective for people with severe problems with drugs or alcohol, and especially people who are dealing with other mental health conditions. Living at the rehab program facility helps you avoid the temptations and influences in your daily life that trigger your substance use. Living in a healthy environment supports your recovery.
Licensed inpatient facilities offer 24-hour support and intensive care. They incorporate three phases of recovery into their treatment plans: detox, reflection, and growth. They are focused on helping patients learn to adopt drug- or alcohol-free lifestyles after treatment. Many of these programs involve a step-down approach to help patients transition from inpatient care to individual or group counseling outside of the facility.
There are both short-term and long-term residential rehab programs. Patients typically stay at long-term residential facilities from six months to a year, while short-term facilities require stays of about three to six weeks.
Inpatient rehab centers offer several benefits that make them the best option for some people:
Residential or inpatient rehab requires a larger commitment than outpatient programs do. Keep in mind these tips when deciding which drug and alcohol rehab program may work for you:
Transitioning back to everyday life after life in an inpatient rehab facility can be stressful. Make sure you make a recovery plan to help you deal with stressors, including ongoing outpatient treatment and the support of family and friends.
Content reviewed by Dr. Jasleen Salwan, MD, MPH, FASAM, February 2023.